Thursday, May 6, 2010

  • New and improved food outlets . . .
  • . . . and a cancer study of food information
  • Digital tools 'transformative' for education
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

New and improved food outlets . . .

I had a chat over coffee yesterday with Lee Elkas, the university’s director of food services, who filled me in on this summer’s two main construction projects as well as some of his hopes for the future.

[Elkas]Elkas (left), who came to Waterloo in 2005, is responsible for two residence cafeterias, 15 other retail outlets and a catering operation. The roster will be going up by one before this term is over: he’s hoping that the long-awaited outlet in the Accounting and Finance wing of Hagey Hall will be serving coffee and food, with an emphasis on “fair trade” and “local” comestibles, by August.

Construction work for the still-unnamed Accounting outlet will go to tender tomorrow, Elkas said. With help from the Food Advisory Board, he’ll settle on a brand name soon. Arrangements have been made for the Waterloo Coffee Company to supply fair-trade organic coffee (it’ll be the fourth brand of coffee served at food services outlets). The bakery in Village I is working on “unique” recipes for muffins and other baked goods.

And — in response to student demand — instead of selling bottled water, the new café will have a reverse osmosis water station where customers can fill up their bottles at no charge.

Responding to what students (and faculty and staff) want to eat and drink makes for constant change to the food services setup and menus, Elkas said. But as a generalization, the days of standardized meals at standardized hours are long past. “Students want to customize their meal,” he says, “and they want to see it prepared fresh in front of them.”

Sometimes they also want to prepare their own — and because he knows that even a residence room without a kitchen may well be stocked with a quart of milk and a package of English muffins, he’s interested in adding a few such groceries to the offerings of Village cafeterias.

If it’s ever possible to open a food outlet in UW Place, where space for a “community centre” has been coveted for years, he’s visualizing a combination snack bar and convenience store where breakfast sandwiches might share sales space with canned goods.

UW Place, across University Avenue from the engineering buildings, is part of the underserved region of campus, Elkas says. The whole engineering complex doesn’t have a single food services outlet, and despite discussions as the buildings were planned, Engineering 5 and 6 won’t have anything of the sort either. They are, however, temptingly close to the commercial plazas where much of Elkas’s day-to-day competition is housed. He’s hoping that Engineering 7, some time in the future, may be the building that finally makes it possible for food services to be represented in that neighbourhood.

While construction goes ahead on the Accounting café, another crew will be at work renovating the Modern Languages building coffee shop, which has changed only a little since it opened in 1962. (The wall photos date from redecoration in 1989, and a Tim Hortons counter was added in 1999.)

“A more up-to-date, bright, open-concept servery” will be in operation when the coffee shop, now closed for the summer, reopens in September, Elkas says. The wall of the building is actually being pushed outwards in one area to provide a little extra work and storage space, and Tim’s will expand and move slightly.

Elkas promises shorter lineups (congestion is an ML tradition) and “a much larger variety of choice, including a counter where customers can choose the topping on their salad and wrap”. The place will get a new name as well, he said — look for it to be branded as a “diner”, but with a contemporary style.

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. . . and a cancer study of food information

from a news release issued yesterday by the Canadian Cancer Society

A new study, funded by the Canadian Cancer Society, will help determine whether people make healthier food choices in restaurants if calories and other nutrients are listed on menus. Healthy diets, being active and maintaining a healthy body weight may reduce the incidence of cancer by up to 35 per cent. Poor diet and being overweight or obese are thought to contribute to a large number of cancers, including cancers of the breast, colon, kidney, stomach, lung and uterus.

This is one of 66 new research projects worth $24 million announced by the society.

David Hammond, a researcher at the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact and a faculty member in health studies and gerontology at the University of Waterloo, is leading the nutrition study: "We consume an increasing amount of fat, salt and calories outside the home, and consumers have little or no idea about the nutritional content of what they are eating," he says. "They may be shocked at what they find out." Hammond's team will receive $276,000 over three years to carry out the research. (Hammond talks on video.)

"Being overweight or obese is an important risk factor for cancer and more Canadians are becoming obese every year," says Christine Williams, director of research for the Canadian Cancer Society. "Providing basic nutrition information on menus is an important step towards making it easier for Canadians to make healthier choices.”

One part of the study will involve testing whether adding calorie information to restaurant menus and display menus at fast food outlets affects the food choices of students and faculty on the Waterloo campus. There will also be an experimental study in which more than 600 adults from the Kitchener-Waterloo area will order from menus with different types of calorie and nutrition information to examine what type of nutrition information is most effective at influencing food choice and consumption.

Findings of the study will be available in two years and will inform government policy. Several U.S. states, including California and Oregon, as well as New York City, already have laws in place requiring restaurants to disclose calorie and nutritional information. Current Canadian law requires only that pre-packaged foods sold in stores be labelled with nutritional information, but this is not the case for food sold in restaurants and fast food outlets.

Very little research has been done previously to show the impact of nutritional listings on menus. However, evidence from pre-packaged food studies shows that it does help consumers to make better food choices. "There is no magic bullet, but even small adjustments on a daily basis add up to huge changes over a lifetime," Hammond says. "What we are trying to do is provide the evidence to policy-makers for regulations that have the potential to influence food decisions millions of Canadians make when they eat out. "

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that people eat a variety of vegetables and fruit every day. In 2008, fewer than 45 per cent of Canadians over the age of 12 consumed more than five servings a day.

The Propel Centre for Population Health Impact was recently created from the existing Centre for Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation and Population Health Research Group. The centre — a partnership between the Cancer Society and UW — is committed to preventing cancer and chronic disease by improving health at a population level, and reducing the impact of cancer on people affected by it.

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Digital tools 'transformative' for education

The learning stream of next week’s Canada 3.0 forum is promising to “develop a transformative plan to enable the education system to equip young talent for the competitive digital media industry in the country and ensure that Canada is a world research leader in digital media research”.

The second annual Canada 3.0 event will bring together experts who can make that happen, from industry, government and academia. The two-day event, May 10-11, aims to boost the country's ability to lead in the digital economy, essentially making it possible for anyone to do anything online in Canada by 2017. 

The Canadian Digital Media Network, a federal centre of excellence in commercialization and research, is organizing the event along with UW’s Stratford Campus. The forum's stream on learning on Monday will be chaired by Sara Diamond, president, Ontario College of Art and Design, and Ken Coates, dean of arts at Waterloo. 

"This is an important event for Canada because it brings together great minds from many sectors of the digital world and many other disciplines to look at the ways that education can be transformative, and can take into account the way that new generations are learning, communicating and engaging in research," says Diamond in a news release issued yesterday. "It will help us to understand how digital tools and communications can help us to be competitive within a highly competitive global market, allow us to create a sense of identity and cultural strength, and keep us on the cutting edge of knowledge."

Staged at the Rotary Complex in Stratford, where the first Canada 3.0 took place last year, Canada 3.0 for 2010 features a select group of speakers in the plenary session with opportunity for attendee discussion and input in a broader range of breakout sessions and workshops.

"We will focus on an action plan to retool the education system so Canada can find and retain talent as well as develop research opportunities to strengthen the evolution of digital media," says Coates, a key figure in the establishment of the Stratford Campus.

The learning stream kicks off with a panel discussion on Setting the Agenda: Digital Media and the New Learning Styles: Opportunities, Barriers, A Search for Solutions. At lunch, a pecha kucha (a Japanese equivalent to chit-chat) and poster session will be held, in which presenters spend five to seven minutes showcasing ideas and programs before an audience. Among the presenters is Waterloo's Sean Van Koughnett, founder and director of VeloCity residence-based incubator project.

An afternoon panel will look at how “A Diverse World Needs Diverse Talent”. A round table with employers discussing their skills needs will follow.

On Tuesday a panel will explore Digital Media: Successes and Accomplishments in Canadian Digital Media Research. Afterward, another panel will address Canada and the Global Digital Environment, and a third group will tackle Digital Commercialization: How Can We Get It to Work? 

Topics to be explored in other forum streams, led by heavy-hitters in the digital media sector, include “Imagining — global best practices”; “Empowering — networks, infrastructure and mobility”; “Changing — digital rights, regulations and policies”; “Revolutionizing — leveraging health-care technology to make Canada a digital nation”; and “Creating — developing content and commercialization opportunities”. This last session will be co-chaired by Tim Jackson, UW’s associate vice-president (commercialization) and CEO of the Accelerator Centre.

Canada 3.0  is supported by organizations including the Waterloo Region tech umbrella Communitech; lead sponsors Open Text Corporation; PricewaterhouseCoopers; Christie Digital Systems Canada Inc.; Research In Motion; Agfa HealthCare; the City of Stratford and more.

The event, according to the news release, “will build on the momentum created at last year's forum that attracted about 1,500 people, and will have a broad scope given that digital media is defined by organizers as anything created or shared virtually”.


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Link of the day

Emergency preparedness

When and where

Campus recreation registration for intramural sports, through Friday, Physical Activities Complex. Details.

Weight Watchers at Work spring series begins 12:00, Humanities room 373; call ext. 32218 to register.

K-W Musical Productions presents the romantic comedy “I Love You Because” May 6-8 and 12-15, 8 p.m., Theatre of the Arts, tickets $30 (students $20) 519-578-1570. Details.

Information systems and technology professional development seminar: “SharePoint 2010 Pro Summit and DrupalCon” Friday 9:00, IST seminar room.

Carousel Dance Centre recitals May 7-9, Humanities Theatre.

Science Rendezvous public festival Saturday, Princess Twin Theatre and Café, Waterloo: demonstrations 1:30 to 4:00, nanotech discussion from 2:00, film “The Quantum Tamers” 4:00. Details.

Mothers’ Day brunch at University Club, Sunday 11:00 to 1:30, $24.95 plus tax and gratuity, reservations ext. 33801.

UW Blooms Monday 10:00 to 4:00, multipurpose room, Student Life Centre: donate, pick up or exchange plants, seeds, pots, gardening material.

Library workshop: “New Faculty and Grad Students, Research Tools and Library Services” Monday at 1:30, Davis library conference room; May 17 at 10:30, Flex lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Work reports to be marked by coordinators are due Monday 4:00 p.m., Tatham Centre.

Alumni reception in Calgary during Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists conference, Tuesday 6:00, BMO Centre. Details.

Book launch: Richard Payette, The Amulet of Apollo, print-on-demand novel, Tuesday 7:00 p.m., bookstore, South Campus Hall.

Retirees Association bus tour, “Wineries of the Beamsville Bench” May 12, details 519-885-6719.

Staff career workshop: “Exploring Your Personality Type” May 14, 1:00 (and second session May 21), Tatham Centre. Details.

Co-op job postings for fall work term open May 15 (main group and pharmacy students). Employer interviews begin May 26 (pharmacy), May 27 (main group).

You @ Waterloo Day for applicants considering offers of admission, May 20, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., headquarters at Student Life Centre. Details.

‘Dancing in the Dark’ fund-raiser for Canadian National Institute for the Blind, sponsored by UW pharmacy students, May 20, 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., The Vault lounge, Waterloo.

Victoria Day holiday Monday, May 24, UW offices and most services closed, classes not held.

Winter term grades become official May 25.

Bob Truman, institutional analysis and planning, retirement reception May 26, 3:00 to 6:00, University Club, RSVP a2morrow@

Retirees Association spring luncheon May 27, 11:30, Sunshine Centre, Luther Village, tickets $25, information 519-888-0334.

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